Love and Chaos Part 5(I) Chris 3

3rd May 2021

photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Five. Berlin. Winter 1994

Chris emptied his Brief Kaste, threw away the Werbung (adverts) and took the envelope upstairs. He recognized the handwriting at once, and the British stamp only confirmed that here was another letter from Melanie.

He had promised Richard that he’d go to a travel agents with him, help book his ticket to London, but had just received some bad news from the studio: there would be no more work in the new year. The studio was closing down.

It had created a surreal atmosphere. Anyone who turned up got paid, but nobody was doing any work. People just sat around, drinking coffee and smoking. The room was full of uncertainty, worrying how rents would be paid, some wondering whether they would return to Berlin after their visits home for Christmas.

Chris kept this from Richard, but asked him if he knew what the situation was at Biberkopf, as he could take over the shifts while Richard was away.

The flight was booked with Chris insisting that Richard get back in time for New Year’s Eve, ‘Sylvester’, in Germany.

“You just wouldn’t believe it, it’s like a war zone, people throwing bangers, fireworks, everyone out drinking on the streets. You’ll love it. Hey, new year, new start. It’ll be OK, you know.’

“You sure about that ?”

“Yes. I am.” An optimistic answer from Chris who would start the new year unemployed. He knew that if he told Richard, then Richard would immediately give up the Biberkopf job, insist on giving it back to Chris and would therefore have an excuse to stay in London.

On Christmas Day, Chris fixed himself a breakfast of smoked salmon, day old rolls, some tangerines, and several cups of coffee.

Monika was at her sister’s, just outside Leipzig, Gabi back in Vienna. Silke was in Bavaria, Kai incommunicado and Andreas had somehow found the money to go to Turkey. Lorelei was staying in Berlin, but Chris was sensitive enough not to mention her, or to blatantly not mention her. Tommy was visiting family in Aachen, in the west of Germany and Gert had naturally disappeared somewhere.

In the early afternoon, Chris went for a walk, enjoying the freedom of being totally alone in his city. The roads were almost empty, only an occasional car passing by and beeping hello. The shops were all shut, even the Imbisses had closed, or so it seemed. A side street off Schönhauser Allee had two fluttering flags, showing that at least one fast food joint was open. Chris made a note of it, should he require a Christmas kebab.

With no direction or purpose, Chris turned into Danziger Str and thought he’d walk to Friedrichshain. He walked along this notoriously tedious road, smoking, strolling, feeling quite happy. For the moment. The shit was going to hit the fan, so he may as well enjoy this anomaly of peace and quiet.

In four days time, both Monika and Melanie would arrive in Berlin. Melanie was arriving early evening and expected to be met at Tegal airport. Monika was driving, probably arriving late evening. The next day, the 30th, Richard arrived back, same time flight as Melanie, but he could make his own way home. Chris could stay at Monika’s, leaving Richard with Melanie. That image made him laugh out loud.

Then, how would Monika react to Melanie ? Melanie to Monika ? How would Richard be ? Chris knew he was in a lot of pain, more than he could help him with, and just hoped that his break in London would give him the distance he needed.

After half an hour, he was at Rigaer Str and thought he’d try Café Kinski. It was locked, but there were people inside, so it was probably a private party. He walked on, past more squat bars, squat houses, negotiating the piles of dog shit on the street and the distinctive odours of shit and piss and vomit and sweat and fumes and fast food. He felt at home.

After walking along the Strasse he saw a light above the door of the Czar Bar. It was open.

Coming from the left, there was a large, single pane window, with the Cyrillic ‘bap’ (bar) painted along the lower edge. The window was usually crammed with junk, but it was still possible to see inside, see who was working.

Chris peaked in and saw a figure in a fedora, twisting around, reaching for some glasses and a bottle of vodka. Tidings of comfort and joy.

The Czar bar was entered by walking up a step, into a sheltered vestibule, both sides plastered with flyers and stickers, flapping and peeling off. The door was solid, bottle green, also covered in small posters. Immediately inside was a thick black curtain, which had to be brushed aside.

The bar had changed a lot since Chris dragged an unimpressed Nuno and a repulsed Melanie here. A year ago. A lifetime ago.

There was now a more permanent looking bar, stretching from the door and curving around to the flipper (pinball) room. There were pallets below the bar, making a step up to the tall stools that were bolted down. Drunks may continue to fall, but the chairs would remain standing.

Above the bar, was a flat surface reaching to the ceiling, giving the bar the appearance of a kiosk. Behind the bar was the large dresser, now with more bottles and glasses, and a CD system, playing early Neil Young.

Around the room were placed round tables and along the walls, two old sofas. Chris looked into the far recess of the bar and saw that there was actually a stage, reached by four or five steps.

The room had also been painted; it was now a dull, deep orange, and with the main shutter down, and low wattage bulbs, it could easily have been late evening, not afternoon.

Chris took a seat at the bar, next to some Germans who looked half-way pissed already, but smiled at him warmly. He smiled back.

“Heeeeyyy, Chris, welcome back. Haven’t seen you around here for a while,” said Jake the Barman, extending a hand for a complex series of shakes.

“I was here last month.”

“You were ? Where was I ?”

Chris pointed to the end stool,


“Over there.”

“Oh, right, I wasn’t working, I’m only out of it when I’m not working, yeah, Yuri was work .. no, let me … Micha ? Hell, I don’t know, what the fuck does it matter, hey ? Oh, Merry Christmas, can I get you a Christmas cocktail ?”

“What’s in it ?”

“Vodka and … vodka.”

“OK, I’ll have a double.”

This made Jake laugh, and they drank together, Jake introducing him to everyone who came in. By evening, Chris was very tipsy, and the bar, which was also looking tipsy, was full. Tom Waits had at some point replaced Neil Young.

A small, well built man with a dark beard and moustache came in and rested both elbows on the bar, staring intensely at Jake.

“Jake. Vodka,” he barked in German. Jake was having difficulty controlling his eyes, which were scanning the room, back and forth, and he was also trying to dance along to the music, but he managed to open a new vodka, pick up three shot glasses in one hand and pour the vodka to the very top of the glasses without spilling a drop. He spoilt this achievement by licking the drips off the bottle.

“Claude … Chris. Chris. Claude,” said Jake, making the introductions. Claude turned the intense gaze on Chris, looking him right in the eyes from across the bar. Then he raised his glass, said, ‘Santé’, and downed it in one gulp. He let out a vodka sigh, shook his head, slapped himself once or twice and clicked his fingers.

“Jake. Noch drei mehr (three more).” Jake repeated the process, Claude repeated his ritual of sighing and slapping, then slammed down some money on the counter and left.

Chris had no recollection of leaving, or getting home, or indeed, buying his Christmas Döner, but did find the tell-tale tin foil in his dustbin, along with small chunks of meat and purple cabbage that he kept discovering around his flat over the next days.

On the 28th, Monika called, saying she couldn’t wait to see him. It was then that he told her about Melanie arriving.

The line went dead.

But not for long.

There followed a lengthy conversation with accusations and insinuations, despite all of Chris’ assertions that she was, and always had been, a friend and nothing more. Why should Monika know so many men, and Chris not be allowed any female friends ? Monika easily countered that by mentioning all the ladies of The Gang. Then Chris had a moment of inspired genius,

“All right, it’s for Richard. You know he’s heartbroken.” Monika went silent. Chris pressed on, amazed by his brilliance and enjoying the previously unknown sensation of being victor in an argument’

“And why ? I’m not blaming anyone, here, but, well, all I’m gonna say is that Lorelei is your friend. That’s all. I’ll say no more. If Melanie can help him, be a friend to him, then … yeah, it’s good she’s coming.”

He realized his ending was weak, and knew not to press his point, not to allow Monika too much of a chance for a killer comeback.

It ended with Monika telling him what a great friend he was to Richard and how much she really loved him.

He didn’t tell her about losing his job and not knowing how he would pay the rent in February.

On the 30th, Richard arrived back in Berlin. He knew that it would take some time before he felt better, or normal, or whatever was the correct word for recovering from a broken heart, but he was determined to get over Lorelei.

As he passed through passport control, he was greeted by Chris, making high-pitch whistle noises, pretending he was blowing into a party streamer. Next to him was Melanie. Chris, through an exaggerated smile said,

“Look … it’s Melanie !”

“So I see.’

Chris had taken precautions, making sure he had a half bottle of vodka with him for the journey back.

At the flat, they sorted out the sleeping arrangements. Monika wouldn’t be back until late, so she would come over tomorrow and they would all go out. It was all planned.

Richard had brought back some books, an old Sunday Times, some English crumpets, Marmite, and a couple of new CD’s.

“Hey … look.” He held up the ‘Reality Bites’ soundtrack and ‘Monster’ by REM.

Chris whooped and grabbed the soundtrack and played it. As soon as the first song, ‘My Sharona’ came on, Melanie began complaining,

“Oh, The Knack, so brainless,” and other disparaging remarks.

There was a definite vibe in the room, and Chris thought the best way to dispel it was to go out drinking. Richard wanted to change his shoes, and put on an old pair of boots. He withdrew his foot, rapidly, as it was obstructed by something. He reached in and pulled out what he presumed was an old piece of rotten cardboard, and threw it away, without giving it a second thought, this was Berlin, after all, but Chris was amazed, not to say perturbed that kebab meat was still turning up.

The celebrations for Sylvester began early, and even from the flat in the Hinterhof, with windows closed, they could hear intermittent explosions as soon as they woke.

Chris was up first, and went out, looking to find any shops, so as to have Sekt and possibly food when Monika arrived.

Melanie and Richard sat drinking coffee together. They compared this flat with it’s gas heater in the kitchen and bathroom, to the flat in Rigaer Str. They talked about that November, motor bike crashes and walking around Berlin in the snow. Richard remembered going all the way to the museum at Karlshort, where the Germans signed the unconditional surrender in may 1945, and finding it closed, but seeing a genuine Russian soldier walking along the road, a rather small specimen, with bright red, dripping nose and hat with ear flaps. Melanie brought up the fire and worried about Chris burning his hands,

“He has the most beautiful hands of any man, ever.”

Richard was also curious how Monika and Melanie would get on.

“I’m going to like Monika, I know,” she said, “we’ll probably go off together and have a good time, a good chat, and bitch all about Chris.”

Richard wasn’t so certain.

Around eight o’clock, there was a furious thumping on the door. Chris opened it, and from the main room, Richard and Melanie could hear him greet Monika, as well as hearing other female voices. Richard recognized Lorelei and took the next seconds to compose himself.

Then Monika, Gabi and Lorelei came in, all smiles and hugs. Melanie kept back, while they all hugged and kissed, then extended a hand to the three women. Richard put on the soundtrack CD, and as the opening drums and bass pounded out, Monika began jumping around and dancing, followed first by Chris, then Richard, then Gabi, then Lorelei.

There was a babel of languages as they tried to decide what to do. Chris had bought some Sekt and insisted the only way to start an evening was with a bottle of Sekt. Richard nodded sagely at this piece of received wisdom and Gabi backed him up. There only being four glasses, the men drank out of cups.

“OK, listen, we’ll go to Arizona Al’s, first. He’s at Eberswalder Str, we can walk there. Then … where’s the first party ?”

Monika answered him,

“Friedrichshain, near Simon Dach Str. There will be … seven of us, no ? Ja, seven, so we need two taxis.”

Then Gabi coughed suggestively. Monika picked up the hint.

“Ah, point, would anyone like a little … something … nice … hahaha ?” She put the back of one finger to one nostril and sniffed through the other one.

Chris lit up,

“Yeah, let’s go!”

“OK, anybody need the toilet first ? Richard ?” asked Monika.

“No.”

“Are you sure ?”

“What am I ? Six years old ?”

Monika laughed and led Chris into the bathroom. Shortly afterwards, Chris quoting another line from ‘Pulp Fiction’, screamed,

“I say, Goddamn!”

Richard was next, and took the rolled up fifty Mark note, sniffing the trail of white powder off the toilet lid. Monika came back and asked Melanie, who just shook her head.

Finally, they were good to go.

Walking down Schönhauser Allee, Melanie began to fall behind the others and Richard, not wishing to leave her out, walked along with her, listening to her observations, while wishing he were part of that chain up ahead, as they all walked with linked arms, and Lorelei, in three-quarter length coat and black boots, was looking more beautiful than ever.

IELTS Mindset 1, lesson 7 Review

29th April 2021

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Ready for the lesson, ladies ? Yes, Thay Paul … hey ho, let’s go ! [Ha Noi 2015]

Pedal to the metal, let’s dive in and hit the ground running !

We are licensed to review the previous lesson, a potpourri of quick thinking (thinking on your feet), dropping idioms at the drop of a hat and sentence building by employing as many relative clauses as humanly possible … big time ! Not forgetting the grammar lesson, prepositions, directions and map-reading, differentiating between locating (finding) and labelling (writing on something). Now, without further ado

What do you see in the picture ?

Aston Martin James Bond Museum Nybro Sweden

Let’s break it down into three sections: the man, the car, the location, then the spatial relation between all three. Piece of cake ? OK, breaks down like this:

The man: Daniel Craig (actor), James Bond (character), tall, blonde, handsome, strong, highly-skilled, well-off (quite rich), talented, licensed to kill, British … what other adjectives ?

The car: expensive, beautiful, full of gadgets, exclusive, cost an arm and a leg, astronomical, Aston Martin DB10, luxury …

The location: Rome … no help here ! What do you know about Rome ?

NOW … YOUR TURN

Make an IELTS-style sentence featuring relative clauses and prepositions of place. You have two minutes … go !

Come, come my students … don’t disappoint me

Thay Paul, can you give us some help, please ?

Oh, you know I will ! OK, how’s this: Daniel Craig, who’s a world-famous British actor, is playing James Bond, a fictional spy who has been in over twenty films. Mr Craig, who is very tall and attractive, is standing in front of an incredibly exclusive Aston Martin DB10, which is an iconic British car, whose price is astronomical. Behind we can see the breathtaking skyline of Rome, which is the capital of Italy, a country famous for style, elegance and luxury.

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Oh, piece of cake ! Thanks, Thay Paul.

Teamwork – utilise the internet to gather information. Quite simply, I am at St Paul’s Cathedral and I want to get to Shakespeare’s Globe.

Create a jaw-droppingly brilliant IELTS response telling me about St Paul’s, the Globe and how I can get there on foot.

You have five minutes … go !

St Paul's is exactly opposite Tate Modern on the Thames. | St pauls  cathedral, Saint paul, Bridge city

Bonus points: What symbols can you identify on the map ? What do they signify ?

Now, time for some retail therapy, and we’re going to take it up a notch.

Updated Interchange Mall LVL 1 Map based off feedback : EscapefromTarkov

You will enter at OLI and meet your friend outside of Top Brand. From there, you want to visit The National, then Viking. Afterwards, your friend wants to pop into Books before you meet another friend inside Nortex. Your taxi will pick you up at IDEA.

This time give me directions as well as using relative clauses to explain something about the shops in question … or as much information as you can provide.

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Leave it to us, Thay Paul … piece of cake !

See you next week

Celebrate The Year Of The Ox With These Great Chinese Movies Available To  Stream Now | Urban List
Three hours with Thay Paul … sounds good ?

Youn Yuh-jung: Best Supporting Actress

Congratulations-축하합니다

28th April 2021

Dân Hàn khóc, vỡ òa vì 'chiến thắng đỉnh cao' của Youn Yuh Jung tại Oscar -  VietNamNet

I was over the moon that Youn Yuh-jung won the Oscar for her role in ‘Minari’ (Dir. Lee Isaac Chang).

Youn Yuh Jung không muốn bị gọi là Meryl Streep của Hàn Quốc, căng thẳng vì  đề cử Oscar | VTV.VN

I fell in love with Korean cinema about ten years ago and I shall post a blog listing some of my favourite films, in the near future.

In the meanwhile, we can celebrate last year’s Best Film winner ‘Parasite’ (Dir. Boon Joon-ha) as well as raising a glass to Youn Yuh-jung’. This blog is dedicated to Sassy Girls wherever you are.

Hình ảnh phim My Sassy Girl | DienAnh.Net

Young Learners, Level 6: Engineering projects

27th April 2021

Warm up – Here are some symbols of Viet Nam:

Can you think of symbols of the UK ?

Question: Why is Britain so big in Sai Gon ?

England Symbols And Icons. Vector Illustration Royalty Free Cliparts,  Vectors, And Stock Illustration. Image 137889874.

Answer:

Khám phá The Landmark 81 - Tòa nhà cao nhất tại Việt Nam

Landmark 81 is a super-tall skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh CityVietnam, that was designed by the British firm (company) Atkins.

Landmark 81 is the tallest building in Vietnam, and the 14th tallest building in the world.

The 461.5 metres (1,514 ft) tall, 81-storey building is built on the western banks of the Saigon River.

The development comprises (has) hotel and conference rooms, luxury apartments, high-end shops, restaurants, bars, and a multi-story observation deck.

Image result for landmark 81

Comprehension review:

What is the building called ? // Where exactly is it ? //

What firm designed it and where are they from ?

How tall is it ? // What does the complex comprise of ?

Landmark 81 Skyview Review: Is it worth? - Mylittleplan.com
How would you feel so high in the sky ?

Can you think of any tall buildings from history ?

Can you think of any amazing engineering works from history ?

Information gathering

Watch the video and collect the following information (answers at end of blog):

1) What year was Philadelphia City Hall built ?

2) Where is the Singer Building ?

3) How tall is the Metlife Tower ?

4) What year was the Chrysler Building built ?

5) How tall is the Empire State Building to the very top ?

6) What is the tallest building in Chicago called ?

7) What is the first building in the video NOT in the USA ? Where is it ?

8) How tall is Taipei 101 ? What plant does it look like ?

9) In 2010, what was the world’s tallest building ? Where is it ?

10) What will be the tallest building in the world ?

11) Work on the Jeddah Tower stopped in 2020. Can you think why ?

Interesting fact: the US architect Adrian Smith designed both the Burj Khalifa and the Jeddah Tower

However, it’s not all plain sailing. Sometimes things go wrong:

(suggest starting at number #48 at 1:20)

Answers

1) 1901 2) NYC 3) 213metres or 700 feet 4) 1930

5) 432 m or 1416 ft 6) Sears Tower (now Willis Tower)

7) Petronus Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

8) 508m or 1667 ft. It resembles a bamboo plant

9) Burj Khalifa in Dubai 1

10) Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia 11) Work stopped due to COVID-19

A useful website, from April 4th 2021: https://constructionreviewonline.com/project-timelines/jeddah-tower-project-timeline-and-all-you-need-to-know/

IELTS Mindset: Create narratives & April 30th

26th April 2021

No photo description available.
Grounds of the Independence palace, Sai Gon

Friday is Reunification Day in Viet Nam, so provides us with a topical subject for this week’s lessons.

First up, the relative clause game. To encourage students to speak more fluently, and to use complex sentences as a matter of course, a little speaking activity. I shall recite a short extract at various points, I shall stop and ask a student for extra information including the correct relative pronoun. Got it ?

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Yes, Thay Paul we got it … but can you give us an example, please ?

Oh, you know I will ! Let’s invent an English friend, Mr John … use adjectives to describe his personality and appearance, nouns to tell about his occupation and see how far we get. Ready ? Let’s go !

Mr John, WHO is from London, is on holiday in Sai Gon, WHICH is the biggest city in Viet Nam. John, WHO loves history, wants to visit the War Museum WHICH is located in District 1 and is an extremely thought-provoking experience. John, WHO is an estate agent, is quiet and a little serious although he is extremely friendly. John, WHO is 32 and unmarried, wants to learn about the war WHICH ended in 1975.

NOW … YOUR TURN

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Sai Gon 2015

Ms Kim, WHO ____________, works in Sai Gon, WHICH ______________________. Kim, WHO __________________, wants to visit Ben Thanh Market WHICH ______________________ additionally __________________. Kim, WHO _________________________, wants to buy a birthday present for her mother WHO ___________________.

No photo description available.
London 2010

Mr Peter, WHO loves ______________ , is killing two birds with one stone. He’s using his laptop WHICH _________________ to have a Zoom meeting with his business partner WHO _________________________ as well as drinking coffee at Mario’s WHICH ______________ . Because he lives in Italy, Peter WHO _____________________________ , speaks both English WHICH ________________________ and Italian because his wife WHO _________________________ was born in Rome WHICH ____________ .

Piece of cake, hey ? OK, on to this week’s exercises. We’ll continue with making a narrative.

I had a really bad day yesterday, Sunday. To help explain, here’s some extra vocabulary:

Vocabulary: cancellation / hyper-active / irritating / excruciating / connection / deafening / anti-smoking / culture shock / a real handful / “A plague on both your houses !”

William Shakespeare quote: A plague on both your houses.

The exercise can be found on this previous blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/14/ielts-lesson-3-may-the-force-be-with-you/

Finally, the lesson pertaining to April 30th. I have a whole blog dedicated to that subject, a blog which may be accessed here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/04/05/adult-speaking-class-level-3-remembering-april-30th/

See you next week

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Taking Care of Business: Act Three

25th April 2021

Nicholas Young (Elvis) & Martin O’Shea (the Colonel). Original Berlin cast

ACT THREE

     Elvis appears. He goes over to the TV’s and repeats his movements from Act One, but without any enthusiasm. Finally, he goes to a chair and slumps down. On a table he sees an old pizza box, with some left-overs. He picks one piece and eats, but mechanically, his jaws moving in a uniform rhythm, also without enthusiasm or pleasure. There is more debris in the room and rubbish on the floor. After his food, Elvis just sits staring vacantly into space.

     Enter Colonel, slowly, with a sideways glance, a look of pity and confusion rather than disgust.    

Col: Well, I’m still here. I was re-instated in my post. For the sake of peace and quiet, I apologised and promised not to do it again, a promise I have every intention of keeping, I might add … my back was aching for days afterwards. I left my girlfriend or at least tried to … she wanted to break up with me. Something about me not being so much fun anymore, no sense of adventure. Work’s the same. I no longer bother to speak about what’s going on in my life … I merely listen to others drone on. I’ve developed a whole series of gestures and non-committal phrases like these …

(demonstrates various movements of head and body to match his words)

You don’t say; no, really ? Well, whatdoyaknow ? How do YOU feel about that ? What do YOU want to happen …Thanks for coming, hope to see you again, real soon … When I come home … it’s this. The work has dried up and so has he. No-one seems to want an Elvis, anymore. I felt in some way responsible for his depression. I tried to cheer him up by doing things like this …

(to Elvis)

Hey, Elvis, I put some flyers around town and some adds in papers, how about leaving Graceland for a while and going back on the road ? You know your public needs you.

(addresses audience)

we got a little response … we were put on a short list for a walk-on part in a TV add … Elvis likes TV, but they chose to go with a George Michael look- a-like in the end.

Elv: Won’t they get a surprise when they go to the can !

Col: Right ! Who needs it ? Walk-on parts ! Opening shops selling any old tack.

Elv: You know, I think you’re right there, boy. I shouldn’t be limiting myself to small commerce. I have a higher calling. Doggone right, you know, I’ve got it, I know what I have to do … call the Limo, Colonel, we’re off to … the Reichtstag ! (1)

Col: Say what ?

Elv: Yeah, I’m gonna offer my services to the state, hell knows they could use them. What do those politicians know about real life ? C’mon let’s go see ol’ man … er, who’s the big boss man, these days ? Is that big mother still there ? (2)

Col: No, there’s a new kid on the block. And that kid’s a woman.

Elv: Hilary ? Man, she’s cute. Love that hair-band thing.

Col: No, not Hilary. Not cute, either.

Elv: But a woman ?

Col: More or less. Give or take, though you’d probably want to take more than give. Name’s Merkel.

Elv: “Urkel” ? Oh, well, I be damned if I’ll go then. Wait till they get a President worth clambaking … can’t have a man like me wasting photo-ops with a two-bit cow-faced in-bred hillbilly.

Col: (To audience) Then I had an idea and bear in mind that I’m getting increasingly desperate. This is something I tried a few weeks back.

(To Elvis)

Hey, Elvis, Paul McCartney’s outside, he wants so much to meet you. Can you find the time to give him an audience ?

(A mere nod from Elvis. Colonel goes off stage and returns presently, dressed as a Beatle, dark suit and Beatle wig. Throughout, he speaks with an exaggerated Liverpool accent.)

Col: All right there, Mister Presley, honour to meet ya, like, it really is, fab, gear and groovy. Me and the lads got all your records, we really love you, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, like every time we write a song, we think, “how would it sound if Elvis sang it ?”

Elv: Better.

Col: Hey, you could be right there, Cock.

Elv: Bet your arse I’m right.

Col: So, which one of us is your favorite … everyone has a favorite Beatle ? Is it me ?

Elv: None of you.

Col: Oh, ‘ey, ain’t you a one, hey, a right Bobby Dazzler. Is it me ? It’s normally me. All the girls like me.

Elv: Boy, you sure as hell look like a girl. Whoa … I like the drummer … Bongo. He’s all right. ‘Course, he’s not the best drummer in the world.

Col: “In the world” ? He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles. Ta-da ! An oldie but goldie. But can I ask you, where does your talent come from. People ask me all the time to …

Elv: Stop talking ?

Col: Oh, you do like a laugh, oh, ‘ey, fab, like, gear, WWHHHHOOOOOHHHHHHHHH

Elv : No, boy, I mean … stop talking ! You can get a signed photo on your way out. It’s my time to commune with the higher power now. An’ if you wanna know where my gift comes from, well, I suggest you get your skinny, white arse down to the local Baptist church. Randy Scouse git !

Col:

(To audience, as he removes his Beatle garb)

I gave it my best shot, what do you expect ? It got to the point where I was past caring, I thought I’d just let him rot, what’s it to me ? If he couldn’t pay his rent, I’d sling his fat arse out of the joint. ‘Course, I might need some help, someone with a JCB, maybe, but then … something happened. I was at work, drying glasses, when this guy comes in. He orders a beer and we strike up a conversation, you know, I’m thinking about the tips, well, this guy, he’s talking about his house and he’s got some light switch, which, I dunno, either it worked, or only sometimes, doesn’t matter … this guy’s talking to me … about light switches ! I don’t know the guy and he’s not drunk, he just goes on and on and on, he presses the switch one way, on comes the light, then when he tries it the opposite way, the light stays on, that kinda thing … and I’m LISTENING TO HIM ! I’m trying to follow him, see where he’s going with this … then it struck me … OK, the Ku’Damm (3) is hardly the road to Damascus, but this night, could I honestly say that my flatmate was any crazier than this guy, Mr Off-Switch ? Or any of the others in that sad and sorry place ? The guy playing video games all day long ? The girl who puts all her hope in computer-dating ? Anyone who’s ever gone to a Karaoke bar ? Maybe he had the answer … he felt that his life simply wasn’t good enough so he did something about it … little extreme for some tastes, I grant you, but … he did something. He was happy … was … so who was I to judge ? He made people laugh and, for a time, forget their own lives, their own problems. You know, I think people envied him. Really. He had the balls to be what they wanted to be. HE’S NOT ELVIS … he knows that. Did I have any better solutions, any answers, any … thing ? The next day, a letter arrived which gave me an idea. It was actually a bill for 46 Euro that’s 45 for the pizza and 1 for the stamp. I phoned and put a little proposition to them. They could have Elvis eat there every night for a week. I got him a booking …                   

Elv: What’s that you say, boy ?

Col: Elvis, you listen and listen good. 

(Speaks in a heavy, Southern accent)

I’m an old army man and I’m used to discipline. Now I’ve been good to you, almost too good, lettin’ you enjoy the fruits of your labour, an’ all. But heavens to Murgatroyd, they want you ! Your public’s crying out … they’ll be banging on the doors… Elvis, you’ve got to throw a little bone once in a while. I’ve got you booked into a week’s residency and by golly, you’re gonna do it.

Elv: A gig ?

Col: You betcha a gig.

Elv: Enough to keep us here, safe in Graceland ?

Col: More pizza than even you can imagine … but ya gotta get back into shape, son, back into motion.

Elv: Yeah, I have to … warm up a bit, that’s all. Why I can hear the crowd now … faint but expectant … murmuring. I can feel the excitement mounting … the lights, the make-up people running around, the choir doing their scales, musicians tuning. I gather my children around me for a little prayer, the audience getting louder and louder, sweat beginning to pour. I’m calm, gotta keep my people under control, but my heart’s pounding. I owe so much. People living their humble, God-fearing lives, have this one night to get a taste of, a glimpse of … something … higher. They need me … they need me to show them the way, to give them hope, belief, happiness … they need my love … they deserve … my love.

(Colonel slowly exits during Elvis’ speech. As Elvis reaches the end, ‘If I Can Dream’ comes on so that he can go immediately into his routine. He mimes along to the entire song. There should be no parody in the performance. Elvis can give out towels or flowers to women and as the music ends, the play finishes and lights go down.)

Notes

(1) Reichtstag – the German Parliament building.

(2) A reference to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

(3) Ku’Damm the main shopping road in west Berlin

Takin’ Care of Business: Act Two

24th April 2021

No photo description available.
Nicholas Young as ‘Elvis,’ with Jason Daly
No photo description available.

ACT TWO

It is seventeen weeks later. The room is even more tacky, with junk food wrappers and various Americana and kitsch items strewn around. As the Act begins, both are sitting on the chairs. Colonel tries to read but is put off by noises and mumblings coming from Elvis. He stares at Elvis, who seems oblivious. After some moments of silence :

Col: So then … what’s your favourite Elvis song ?

(slight pause)

Elv: All of them.

(slight pause)

Col: What’s your schedule this week ? I said …oh, what’s the use ? Think I’ll go and see Cordelia.

Elv: (suddenly appearing animated ) Oh yeah, the little lady. You take good care of that sweet lil’ bundle of honey – loving.

Col: What would you suggest ? Man of your experience.

Elv: (deep in thought) Uh … women. Boy. Whewww.

(Elvis doesn’t seems as if he’s going to add anymore.)

Col: Thank you, that was very helpful.

Elv: Shoes.

Col: Excuse me ?

Elv: Yeah, shoes. They love shoes. Buying shoes, trying  shoes, choosing shoes, they never wear them. Then take them out. A show, something that women like.

Col: Such as ?

Elv: That play they’re all clucking about … what’s it called ? Something … The Monotonous Vagina, that’s it.

Col: OK. Actually, I’m gonna break up with her. I don’t think it’s working out.

Elv: Attaboy ! Send her back to the farmyard where she belongs. Then when you come back we’ll go cruising on beaver patrol. I’ll show you why they call me ‘The Pelvis’. This rooster’s gonna rustle a few feathers, t’nite !

(He gets up and rubs his back, making slight moaning sounds)

Hold that thought, boy, not sure the King’s back could take it. Couldn’t you just pick up a pair of cuteys ? Use my name. That’ll work.

Col: Well I wasn’t planning on going down Hackershe Mackt (1) way. Listen, why don’t you use those phone numbers … satisfaction guaranteed, all for local rates.

Elv: And they’ll come here ?

Col: No !

Elv: Then …. ?

Col: You know … you know.

Elv: Yeah … what ? I dunno … what ? Oh….OH ! No, listen, I’ve been meaning to have a little chat with you … now seems a good time, what with you breaking up with Corolla.

Col: Cordelia.

Elv: See ! There you go, again. You always have to disagree with me … anything for an argument. When I think of what I gave, what I give to you, shucks, I don’t like to say, but doggone it, people would be falling over themselves to have your job. I don’t ask much, I’m just a simple country boy at heart, don’t let these luxury surroundings tell you otherwise. You have to admit, your work isn’t backbreaking, twenty-four hour a day hard manual labor. Hell, boy, it ain’t hardly work at all. I thought you liked looking after me … me who, well, me who gives so much pleasure to millions … don’t you think …

Col: Whoa, there, Tiger, time-out, time bloody out ! Enough is enough … what was the first record you bought ? What were the names of your pets  ? What’s the ingredients of your favorite peanut-butter and banana sandwich ? I have to say that your knowledge of trivia is disarmingly poor. I’m ashamed of you ! What happened last week ? Opening that dry cleaners ?                     

Elv: “Star Cleaners … feel like a star.”

Col: And that little kid comes up, asking where you were born… and you said “Dortmund”.

Elv: Well it was that Monroe look-a-like … she put me off … I couldn’t concentrate.

Col: So you may have been looking at the stars, but your mind was in the gutter.

Elv: Hey, there’ s a pal, get her number could you ? Tell her I’ve got a seven year itch she’s welcome to scratch. You know, I didn’t like the way Charlie Chaplin was looking at her. No values that man. Ah, she’s too old for him. He liked them young, barely out of their school uniforms …

Col: It’s no good knowing trivia about others … why don’t you read up ?

Elv: Why don’t you shut up, boy ? You can’t speak to me like that ! I made you what you are ! I took you out of that bar and gave you a firm foundation in life, set you up, away from that bedrock of sin and vice and nurtured you in an atmosphere of warmth and love and spiritual guidance. Now ! Get me Monroe’s number … I can’t get her tits out of my mind !

(Elvis gets up and prances around, fiddling with the TV’s, looking restless and generally lost as Colonel speaks. Halfway through the monologue, he sits down)

Col: I don’t know what to do with him. It was a joke at first, went on a bit long, but there was a line. As you can see, said line has been crossed, yes sir, and the truck is gonna keep on a-truckin’. He now refuses to believe that he’s not Elvis. He sits around all day, in the costume, same costume, watching TV’s, eatin’ junk and shouting out, “My boy, my boy.” Maybe it’s like a sleepwalker, you know, you’re not supposed to wake them. Imagine the shock he’d get when he realizes that he thought he was Elvis all these months. On the other hand, what if Elvis, his Elvis that is, suddenly realizes that’s he’s not who he thought he was, but he’s actually a bloke from Dortmund. You see where I’m going with this ? There’s one for the deconstructionists in the audience. Oh, I still work in that bar, for the time being. The boss told me to stop speaking to the customers about living with an Elvis impersonator. Apparently it’s depressing them and I have to survive on the tips. But why do all Elvis impersonators have to choose the 70’s Elvis ? Surely, if you’re gonna impersonate someone, you’d want to capture them at their best ? Why does no-one go with … the … ahhh … I have an idea. I won’t lie to you…it’s not without risk. There is, as you see, no safety net. Anything can happen and I cannot be held responsible. But I think it’s the only choice. You have been warned !

 (Exit)

Elv: Where you off to, boy ? Too ashamed by your behavior ? Well, I don’t hold grudges. You’ll be out of the ol’ doghouse soon and we’ll carry on as …

(Opening melody of ‘Are you lonesome tonight’ is heard, played by a toy xylophone. Elvis looks down at the landline phone and picks it up, slowly, with trepidation.)

Ahhhh … er, yeah, what, say, hello ? Yes, you are speaking to … The King … yes, say what, boy ? Burger Bar ? Yeah, I think it’s my God-given duty to open your Burger Bar … I’m a great patron of the arts. My fee …? er, well, hold the line … Colonel … COLONEL … Colonel ? Ah, heck, right, I’ll take 40,000 dollars cash and a bucket of burgers for the … hello ? Hello ? Damn Yankees ! Where’s the Colonel ? How dare he leave me before I sacked him. Kick his arse for sure. Skinny runt. Thinks he can talk like that to me … me ! The King …THE KING ! 

(attempts some moves but has to stop and rub his back)

Ohh, maybe it’s time I eased into my ballad period. Get the Colonel to hire some doo-wop backing chicks … short skirts, religious like. Oh, the …What in tarnation … ?

(The Colonel appears dressed in tight jeans with quiffed hair and carrying a guitar around his neck. He goes into a routine, singing and playing ‘Hound Dog’. The routine should start off quite serious and impressive until Colonel gets self conscious or loses his confidence and it becomes more of a parody. During this performance, Elvis gets increasingly irritated. First he is perplexed, then offended and finally angry. He tries to obstruct the Colonel, who is too nimble and quick. For the first time Elvis appears at least aware that there is an audience, as he tries to block the view and stop them seeing the ‘upstart’. Colonel then exits, singing and playing as he leaves. He gives one final turn and performs a series of pelvic-thrusts, then blows kisses. Elvis remains standing, breathing hard and heavy and mumbling to himself, though a few words may be intoned clearly. He seems to come to, breathes more calmly, then storms off stage. There are muffled sounds of Elvis screaming and cursing then some banging and thumping. Elvis reappears, dragging Colonel by the ear.)

Elv: I have never … never …

Col: (A la Gilbert & Sullivan) What never ? Or hardly ever ? Arrgghhh !

Elv: Ever seen such a hootenannying display of vulgarity. Boy ! My stomach is a turning over. I’m sick, sick, that a man could … and me … and … and… there’s nothing else for it. I’ve been carrying you for too long and this is how you say thank you, King. To think I was ever you ! The army didn’t come a moment too soon, doing my duty to God, serving in this fair country, comforting those little frauleins, all in the spirit of brotherhood and … and why weren’t you here ? Burger … burger … or whatever phoned … they had a gig for me … I don’t know how to speak to money people … my message is to the hearts, not the wallets. I only asked for 40,000 …see, they knew it’s too little, they must have thought they’d got hold of a crank. I HAD A GIG !  WHERE WERE YOU ? All this has cost me work … not to mention the insult, the … I’m trying, Lord, but … I can’t … I can’t. Some things are unforgivable. You have 24 hours to leave Graceland … and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.

(Exits)

Col: OK, so maybe I overdid it. I didn’t know he’d take it so hard. Disgraced in Graceland. Run out of town. Been given the boot. I’m no longer the pretend manager of a pretend Elvis. Maybe I could get a job as pretend Brian Epstein and pretend to manage pretend Beatles. What am I saying ? It’s getting to me … I have to leave, get back to normal people, have normal conversations, return to reality. Somebody around here has to. I don’t think it’s going to be him.

      END OF ACT TWO

Notes

(1) Hackershe Mackt an area in central Berlin where ladies of the night ply their trade.

Takin’ Care of Business: Act One

A comedy in three acts written & directed by Paul Pacifico

23rd April 2021

May be an image of 1 person

First performed in Berlin early 2000s with Nicholas Young as ‘Elvis’, Martin O’Shea as ‘Colonel’ and Chad as ‘Pizza Boy’. Later revived with Jason Daly as ‘Colonel’ and Philipp Pressmann as ‘Pizza Boy.’

Feel free to use this play as you see fit. If a small profit is generated, I would appreciate a donation to a cancer charity.

This version is set in Berlin. See notes at the end of the play for any references to specific locations or vocabulary.

Legal notice: should you wish to perform the play, you should check for copyright issues or music publishing rights. Original music may be used instead.

And now … lights down … Richard Strauss ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra.’

Takin’ Care of Business

Cast :    Elvis

     The Colonel

          Pizza Boy

Berlin : The Present.

ACT ONE

One room which is a microcosm of Graceland. In one corner hang multicoloured drapes. A table with some plants. The other corner contains three TV sets. Two comfy chairs.

Darkness. Intro of Strauss ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra.’

Two corner lights (red and blue) switch on.

Elvis enters after a minute or so. Lights up.

Elvis switches on first one, then the other TV’s. He looks at them, moving his head from side to side at regular intervals. He is dressed in 70’s costume and periodically alters his garb, without shame or any self-consciousness. He moves around the room. Suddenly he leaps into posture, performing a few karate kicks and muttering to himself, “Master tiger”. Then he does some ‘moves’ or set pieces. He gives a little chuckle to himself and mumbles something. He moves to the TV’s and changes the stations, eventually ending up with the same programmes as beginning, but on different sets. He watches intensely, moving head from side to side. He then moves around the room, performing two set pieces, one facing left, other to the right.

Elv: Well, that’s my work out finished. As the man said, if ya can’t fix it, don’t chyou go a-breakin’ it. Hahaha … Makes a guy hungry … Colonel…  (shouts) COLONEL ! Oh, Col-on…

Col: WHAT !

(He appears from side. He obviously isn’t Colonel Tom Parker but a young man dressed in normal street wear.)

Elv: Hey ! What were you doing upstairs ? You know NO-ONE is allowed upstairs !

Col: Certainly not the cleaning lady. And as for the bathroom …

Elv: Hey! What happens in the bathroom, stays in the bathroom.

Col: Yeah, just make sure it does. Would it kill you to open a window ?

Elv: (with exaggerated pathos)

You know I have a weak constitution. My lil’ ol’ body can’t take those winds rushing up from the Delta.

Col: Yeah, rolling in from the badlands of Kreutzberg. (1)

Elv : Why, you’d tease the bobtail off a muskrat. I know ya don’t mean a cotton pickin’ word. C’mere…give me a southern-fried hug …you know you want to.

(Elvis goes to grab Colonel, who leaps out of the way, almost into the audience. Elvis freezes, mid pose. Colonel now addresses the theatre.)

Col: It’s not easy. I mean, isn’t life hard enough without having a flatmate like this ? I blame myself … it was that party … the theme was ‘great singers of the past who are now past it.’ I chose Dean Martin, which … “Elvis,” here, thought was extremely funny, as he’d been to school with two brothers who were called Dean and Martin. Anyway, I chose ol’ red eyes then suggested that what with his physical dimensions, he’d be a dead – ringer for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. That was the day my music died. Mind you, the signs were all there. He once went through a Beethoven phase. He spent a week frowning at everyone, demanding that we all speak up. Of course, with Beethoven he only attracted geeky nerds. You know the sort … they understand computers. Believe Fox News is “fair and balanced”. Pockets full of crap: screwdrivers, batteries, long forgotten toffees … not a girlfriend between them … literally. Anyway, sorry for this digression but if you remember rightly, I was about to be slobbered over by that inflated blimp behind me. Consequently, I’ve no real desire to resume this play, but, the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the audience, the show must go on, yagga-yagga. Besides, I’ve learnt how to cope with all … nearly all … situations … Watch this…

(Colonel returns to his former position, ie, about to be hugged)

Col: SALAD !

(As predicted, this repulses Elvis.)

Elv: Lord have mercy, Colonel, give a guy a heart-attack. Ah, heck, ya can’t fool me. I know you’re a grizzled ol’ whiskey soaked man’s man, but, deep down, you’ve a huge capacity for love. I respect that. I know where you’re comin’ from and so if sometimes I don’t say it, well, doggone it, I love you, you ol’ moonshine shadow, you, (sings) “I don’t have a wooden heart.”

Col: No, just a wooden head.

(Goes to phone)

Elv : Say what, boy ?

Col: I said I’ll get onto the pizza hot line. What would you like on yours ?

Elv: Cheeseburger, of course. Hahaha, no, I’m only having my little laugh, no, gimme the Hawaiian Five – O.

Col: That’s pineapple and five types of meat ?

Elv: Yeah….and five of them. Gotta keep in shape.

Col: Oy, Elv, the guy here says if you order the Hawaiian Five -O-One, you get a free pair of jeans. Guess that’s some kinda baker humour.

Elv: I haven’t worn jeans since my ’69 special.

     (awkward silence)

Hell, you know I don’t wear jeans … too restricting for my fan base.

(He can think of nothing else to say, after floundering around for a short while. Suddenly he strikes some poses and exaggerates his pelvic thrusts, which should be a balance of vulgarity and humour)

Col: Everyone’s a comedian, hey ? Oh, the guy said don’t try and fob the Gästarbeiter (2) delivery boy off with one of your tin foil medallions. They want cold, hard cash.

Elv: Cold and hard … just like their pizzas … HAHAHAHA … whee-whee, boy, you didn’t see that one coming, did you ?

Col: (With heavy sarcasm) No, gee that was a good one. Way to go, dude.

Elv: Spoken like a good ole boy !

Col: I was speaking to Jimmy the other day. You know Jimmy ? He’s a real American.

Elv: He’s not American ! He’s from San Diego. I don’t wanna hear … I’m worn out … you’re driving me too hard … what do I hire you for anyway ? You should be making all the day to day decisions … what pizza do I want ? How do I know ? That’s your job … I’ve got so many other things to think about, shows to prepare, a public constantly demanding more, wanting to know every rinky-dink detail … I tell you, they won’t be happy until I’m dead. No, don’t apologise, my head is too full up … I must prepare myself for pizza. I’ll be over here … in the Jungle Room.

Col: Well, that’s him quiet for a few minutes. Let me take advantage of this little respite to hip you in to some other info. As I was saying, it all started at that party. He blew everyone away. He was great. Dancing, singing, even the Southern accent kept up. He was fun and you know why ? Because people wanted him to be fun. He fed on their expectations and their spirit. And he got lucky. Yeah. Women who wouldn’t even look at him before, were fighting over each other for his attentions. He learnt the meaning of the English expression ‘knackered’ that night and no mistake. The fact that a girl I had my eye on went over to the far side and got herself “a hunk, a hunk of burning love,” didn’t exactly endear me to this sequinned monster I’d created. But I got over it. He didn’t. He’d found something he’d never had before. He was popular, people loved him. I don’t know where all the moves came from. Very disturbing. I’d advise you not to try any of them at home, certainly not in public. Illegal in seventeen states kinda moves. I thought it was just a phase. Unfortunately not. Quite the opposite … he’s now the head member of the Berlin branch of the Elvis impersonators. They’ve got their own website. He opens supermarkets, gets booked for parties and signs CD’s at markets and Messes (3). He signs … ‘Elvis Presley.’ It seems that people need Elvis, even if it patently isn’t Elvis. He pretends he is and they let him. They want him to be Elvis. The sonofagun makes more money than I do. He can pay for the pizzas … he’ll sure as hell’ll eat them.

Elv: (Makes sniffing noises) Pizza’s here.

(A knock on the door)

Col: Amazing. I suppose you want me to get that ? Sure you don’t want to meet your public ?

Elv: No, even the King must have one night off. Oh, to be King, but where is my queen ?

Col: Well, if you’re a good boy and eat up all your pizza, I’ll put on my Little Richard costume.

Elv: I told you never mention that man’s … er … make that woman’s name around here. He … er, she says she invented Rock ‘n’ Roll. Upstart, Johnny come lately, and don’t start me on Jerry Lewis.

Col: Guess you mean Jerry Lee Lewis.

Elv: I know what I mean, now get the door … pizza waits for no man, and this man don’t wait for pizza.

(Door is opened. There stands the Pizza Boy, loaded with boxes)

Pz : That’s 45 Euro and no tin foil. I’ve heard about you two.

Col: Me ? What have I done ?

Elv: Problem, Colonel ?

Pz : Colonel ? Bloody hell !

Col: No, it’s him, I’m not … what the hell am I speaking to you for ? You just deliver pizza, and not even quickly. If you think you’re getting a tip, you can whistle Dixie … you’d only spend it on comic books and bubble gum.                                       

Elv: Whoa, there, Tiger, that’s no way to speak to guests in our fair country.

(Goes to door to speak to Pizza Boy, looking more at the boxes, than the boy)

Helloo, Chief … and … how … do …YOU … like our … country ?

Pz : Well, it’s OK, I guess. Get to meet all sorts of interesting people. See what they get up to. Makes me think my life ain’t so bad after all. So you taking these pizzas or what Mr Presley ? Or may I call you Elvis ?

Col: Ut-oh, that’s done it.

Elv: Why son of my heart, c’mere lemme give you a…

Pz : I don’t want one of those tin foil medalli …

Elv: …kiss

(Gives enormous smacker on the mouth)

Pz : Aaarrgghhhh … fuck this for a job ….. think I’ll join the army.

Elv: And now’s a good time, plenty of work.

(Pizza Boy Exits cursing, random ad libs like, “Go back to Brokeback Mountain.”)

Elv: Kids … they love me, what can I do ? An’ yer know the best thing ?

Col: We didn’t pay.

Elv: Hot diggerdy-dog, yep, let’s eat.

END   OF   ACT   ONE

No photo description available.

NOTES

(1) Kreutzberg – an area south of the river in Berlin, famous for being a student hang-out, full of bars and Turkish restaurants and, in the 80s & 90s, squat houses.

(2) Gästarbeiter -‘guest workers’, typically immigrants who work in the less desirable sectors such as cleaning or general unskilled work.

(3) Messes – trade fairs, business and marketing events

Nicholas has his own website: http://www.thesoulofelvis.de/photos.html

Love and Chaos Part 5(H) Richard 2

22nd April 2021

photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Five. Berlin. Winter 1994

Chris arrived home a little after three in the morning, being quiet, but not too quiet, hoping that if Richard were awake, he could tell him about the new look Czar Bar and how he had seen Jake, Gaptooth and a new German who looked exactly like David Hockney.

He opened the door to the main room, the light from the hall casting a dramatic beam straight up to Richard, arms sprawled, head at an awkward angle, half undressed, not moving, a quilt partially covering him but not a sound.

Chris’ heart stopped. He immediately sobered up and ran to the body, reaching for the pulse and holding his hand in front of the nostrils. The wrist pulsated, the back of Chris’ hand was chilled by breathe.

He got up and looked in the kitchen, turning on the light without any danger of waking Richard. There, on the table, were seven or eight cans of cheap beer, most of them empty and crushed. Then he looked in the bin, and there were three of four more empties.

Chris walked back into the room and did his best to make Richard comfortable, taking off the one shoe he still wore, his watch, in case he caught himself, and put the quilt fully over him, as the Ofen was going out and the room was getting cold.

He stoked up the Ofen and went to sit in the kitchen, taking one of the remaining beers and calmly drinking until his heart could return to a normal rhythm.

It had stirred up a painful memory, one that had haunted his childhood.

At eight or nine, Chris had found his elder sister on the bathroom floor, vomiting and screaming. Not knowing what to do, he just cried and went to hold her, joining in her screams.

And then he felt her slip away.

He sat with her until his parents came home, who told him that she had eaten too many sweets and was now sleeping, aware that this simply wasn’t true, that something very, very bad had happened, but not knowing why or what, except that he really did know what, but would never know why.

Sitting in his Berlin kitchen, sipping the gassy, tasteless beer, his heart still pounding, Chris was unaware that he was crying.

Richard had seemed so happy. He had been dancing around the flat, not complaining about the sudden drop in temperature which would mean another six months of chopping wood, wearing coats indoors and going into the cellar for briquettes.

He had caused a minor sensation at work, by thanking the staff when they brought him dirty plates and singing along to the radio. He was speaking to Chris about Biberkopf one night at the Ankor.

“It’s always on the same station,” he said of the work radio, ”and they only have about fifty records, which they play in various sequences. There’s a few classics, a few modern hits, and a whole bunch of shit. As for those new Elton John songs, postcards and that bloody cat …”

“That’s not Elton John. I know who you mean and it’s some American asshole.”

“Really ? Well, whatdoyaknow ? Oh, I heard that Crash Test Dummies song, you know the one ? Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm ? Fucking freaky goddamn lyrics, kids with weird birthmarks, and white hair. Never heard it before, but there was this drunk guy in London who was humming it on the tube, late one night. Actually it’s a really good song. Can’t stop humming it, myself. Oh, and what’s that Bryan Ferry song about Berlin ? Non-stop Berlin ?”

Chris looked puzzled, then understood.

“Oh, I know what you mean and every word is wrong ! Nearly every word. It’s ‘Don’t Stop The Dance’.”

“Think I prefer my version.”

“Me, too. More appropriate.”

And they burst into an impromptu rendition, much to the surprise of the cute, ginger-haired waitress, who clearly wasn’t impressed.

“I was thinking,” began Richard, “we should have a culture night, The Gang. I was looking through Tip at work, (Tip is one of two listing magazines, the other being Zitty. Both cover a two week period and come out alternate weeks. Tip is the glossier of the two) and there are so many concerts going on. Classical concerts and Opera. Looks quite cheap, too.”

Chris leant back, drank some beer and thought.
“All right. Yeah. The Opera. Let’s go.”

He got up and went to the magazine rack, taking the copy of Zitty (which was favoured by the alternative scene) and opened it to the music pages.

“Here, the Komische Oper, ‘Strange, or funny Opera’. They perform in German, I think. Yeah. Hey, look … Thursday and, yeah, great, Saturday, Carmen by Bizet. I could dig that.”

“You know Bizet never went to Spain ?”

“Would that be true ?”

“Aye, it would.”

“Well, I say. I’m gonna file that under ‘interesting but also boring facts’.”

“Well, you do what ya gotta do.”

The following Saturday, Monika, Chris, Gabi, Lorelei, Arizona Al and Richard all met in the foyer of the theatre. Arizona was last to arrive, and turned up in knee length purple boots, dark green velvet trousers, an old, brown leather flying jacket, and floppy hat, a thin, wooden instrument strung across his back.

He bounded into the theatre, jumping up the steps. He got quite a few interested and happy looks, and even gave a small performance, singing ‘Ring of Fire’ on his curious contraption.

“Hey, like my dulcimer ? Pretty cool, hey ? I did some busking on the U-Bahn earlier and made enough to pay for my ticket.”

The coat-check girl was also amused by the dulcimer as Arizona handed it to her, along with his hat and slightly effeminate, small shoulder bag.

Richard had the tickets and led them into the auditorium, finding the six seats, and was a little put out that Arizona sat down next to Lorelei, leaving him on the outside.

They all looked around the hall, admiring the décor and the atmosphere. The musicians could be heard tuning up, but were out of sight. Arizona Al lifted himself up, straining to see where the music was coming from, and turning to Richard, asked him,

“Hey, where’s the orchestra ?”


“In the pit.”

Arizona couldn’t contain himself, but jumped up and down in his seat, pounding the arms of the chair and inadvertently bashing into Lorelei.

“Hey, listen up, man, I just asked Richard where the orchestra was, and he said, ‘in the pit’. Orchestra pit ! I never knew what that meant before !”

They all enjoyed the show, Arizona especially, who watched it with a child’s innocence, and Richard was continuously nudged, poked and slapped.

After, they went to a bar in the old Nikolaiviertal, one of the oldest areas of Berlin, recently made over and gentrified, but still retaining a definite charm, due to the river Spree forming the western border, and the imposing, brick, twin-spired Nikolaikirche dominating the cobbled-streets of quaint shops and bars.

Gabi meet a friend, Heike, who worked in stage design and had also seen the new production of Carmen.

Chris said, “Oh, hey, did you know, Bizet, the guy who wrote it, never even went to Spain ? Isn’t that just the craziest ?”

The Gang all found this very interesting, and when Richard turned to look at Chris, he saw him lower his eyes and hastily take a long gulp of beer.

Before Richard left for work on Monday, he met Chris, just back from the studio.

“Arizona had a great time. Told me he made a connection with Heike.”

“Oh, you mean they got on well ?” asked Richard.

“No, dude, he fucked her. Twice, apparently. Said it was his first … ‘connection’ in Berlin.”

“Ah, yes, he broke his duck.”

“He wants to go out with us, again.”

“I bet he does. We’re not his pimps, you know.”

“You mean procurers ? Never mind. You know what’s opening this week ? Pulp Fiction ! The new Tarantino !”

“Man, I’ve been counting the days, big time.”

“We can all go, Saturday. It’ll be at the Odeon, English version with Kraut text.”

“I have to get to my terrible job now, but you get The Gang onto it. That is your mission, should you choose to accept it.”

Chris saluted, as Richard made his way to the elevated U-Bahn station and waited on the chilly platform for the westbound train.

So Arizona had made his first conquest. Chris had already been with a couple of girls, but, so far, Richard had struck out. But he was waiting. Lorelei had left her boyfriend. Maybe he had at least some small part in her decision ? She had sent over messages, had come to the Opera and he was sure she was expecting him to sit next to her. At the end of the night, she had kissed him on the cheek, and held his arm. He took all this as a sign that he only had to be patient and the girl he was so in love with would be his.

However, only Arizona, Chris, Monika and Richard made it to the cinema. Gabi wanted to see it in German and Lorelei was going with her.

Again, Richard was next to Arizona in the cinema but, once he realized Lorelei wasn’t coming, due to a choice of languages, he sat back, swigged his beer and waited for the excitement to begin. They had been surprised at the cast: John Travolta ? Bruce Willis ?

But from the opening scenes in the diner, and the title music, they knew they were in for one hell of a ride.

The twist contest took place, Richard digging Arizona in the ribs,

“Hey, this cat can really dance.”

Arizona jumped up and pointed to the T-shirt Tarantino was wearing in the kitchen scene, as he recognized the logo and began telling a story about it, making Richard miss untold lines.

The highlight of the night, however, occurred in the last diner scene. The Samuel L. Jackson character has a wallet embossed with the legend, ‘Bad Motherfucker’. The German translation for this, when it appeared, full screen in a classic Tarantino close-up, was, ‘Böser Schwarzer Mann’ (Angry Black Man.)The entire cinema erupted into spontaneously laughter, a reaction that Tarantino himself would have loved.

From that point on, they re-enacted lines of dialogue and added new words to their vocabulary.

Every time a customer ordered mayonnaise with chips, Richard let out an, ‘Errrchh, they fuckin’ drown ‘em in that shit, I seen ‘em do it!’, to the total mystery of the east German chef.

One night Richard got a call at work. It was Lorelei. She said that Monika was over at the nearby Café Haller, and was wondering if he wanted to come over, when he’d finished his shift.

He worked at double speed the remainder of the evening.

As clean and fresh as possible after a five hour shift in a hot kitchen, he walked over to the bar where Lorelei was working. She was finishing up her shift, adding up her dockets, and gave Richard a hug, as he cried out how good it was to see her.

As he looked over, he saw Monika waving from a far table. Next to her was a man in a leather jacket. Lorelei explained that it was ‘only’ Werner, a really nice, harmless customer, who was keeping Monika company and keeping the leeches away. She told him to go sit, and she’d send a beer over, and gave him such a lovely smile and wink.

Monika stood up to hug and kiss Richard and Lorelei came over to sit next to Werner. He appeared to be in his mid thirties and had tight, curly hair that looked one moment blonde, the next brown. He had rather protruding eyes and slightly buck teeth, but was very friendly and pleasant, the kind of guy you can always depend on to help move furniture, or pick you up from a distant location.

Richard tried speaking in German, which was improving, but still very basic. Lorelei said that it was cute to hear him, so he continued, as long as possible. At one point, he saw Werner look at him, with the kind of look that said, ‘how can two fucks like us be with two beautiful women like these ?’

Before Richard had finished his first beer, Werner said he had to leave, and Richard shook his hand like he was an old friend.

And then it all went wrong.

Lorelei looked at Richard, smiled and got up as well.

Richard thought that he would be leaving with Lorelei.


Instead, she turned to him and held out her hand. They shook, then she went over to Monika, kissed her goodbye, and left. With Werner.

Richard slumped down, feeling lifeless and humiliated and just plain lost.

“I’m never going to be with Lorelei, am I ?” was his rhetorical question.

Monika looked at him with real concern, but didn’t know what to say, and began to feel both uncomfortable and genuinely hurt, as if she could not only sense, but physically feel his pain.

She offered to drive him home, and suggested they go somewhere to drink in Prenzlauer Berg. He agreed and she almost had to help him out of the bar and into her car.

As they drove, Richard thanked her for everything, and told her that he’d be all right. He asked her to drop him by an U-Bahn station, where there would be an Imbiss open and he could buy some beer. It was better if he were alone, but he told Monika that Chris was at home.

She let him out and he waved her on. He didn’t want her to see him buying as many cans as he could carry.

Love and Chaos Part 5(G) Tommy 2

22nd April 2021

Photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Five. Berlin. Autumn 1994

“Yeah, I was in bed when The Wall came down. I’d been out the night before, didn’t get back until seven or eight, and just crashed the whole day.

“Finally got up late at night and went to make some coffee and what do you know ? Got no milk. So I’m thinking, ‘Scheisse ! Gotta go out.’ And I’m feeling like day-old shit, and I’m looking like shit and I smell like shit, but, you know, just go to the store and get some milk, no biggie.

“Now, I didn’t put the TV on, or the radio, I’m just focused on my little world which has a serious milk crises going on.

“I’m on the streets, and yeah, I hear all this noise and cars beeping and shouting, but I just think that a football team’s won, don’t really think too much about anything, but, as I get to the main road, it’s full of people, and flags and banners and these … I don’t know what, cars, there’s all these fucking Trabi’s (Trabants) and it’s true, they only came in two colours; sky blue or spermy white. Sorry, but it’s true, these fuckin’ cum-mobiles crawling along the street.

“Then I’m in the store and it’s usually pretty quiet, but tonight, it’s full, full of people picking up tins of soup, or bananas, and waving them around. But these people … it wasn’t like they were from another country, it was like they were from another planet.

“So, I get my milk, but I have to queue to pay for it, and the queue just isn’t moving, everyone’s talking and shouting, and I’m thinking what the fuck’s this ? It was more like we had been invaded by them, and now we’re going have to spend all day queueing for bread and potatoes.

“OK, I know history can’t stop, just so as I can get some milk, but come on, wait until I’m sober.

“Then at home I put on the TV for background, and it’s on every channel. I was a part of history, the streets of Berlin, November ‘89, and just wished they’d all fuck off back over The Wall. Come back tomorrow.”

Richard took over directing the car, along Karl Marx Allee, then up into the western part of Rigaer Str.

Café Kinski was full and they got the only free table. Tommy held court, shouting loudly, easily projecting over Rage Against The Machine (Philipp was working and gave Richard a cursory nod).

There was an asymmetrical dynamic to the group, two girls and three boys and Anna appeared to be pulling towards Richard. Karin and Tommy had already staked their claims on each other.

However, Richard was in love with someone else, and stepped aside for Andreas, who wasn’t sure where he was with Silke, and within an hour, the two Germans had gone back with the two Danes. Richard had more beer, then made his way home, alone.

Two weeks later, he wished he had chased Anna, as one night of pleasure may have saved him months of pain.